Monica Medina, the first U.S. special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, thinks there has never been a more important time for diplomats to champion protecting and restoring nature.
“I am really honoured to have this role and this title,” she said. “We’re in a world where the loss of nature is overwhelming and a real potential threat to the health of the planet and the health of people.”
With her appointment at the end of September, Medina became a top leader in the U.S. government for environmental conservation and addressing the climate crisis. Medina also serves as the assistant secretary for the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs at the State Department.
Medina’s new role allows her to be a champion for protecting many plant and animal species worldwide. Environmental threats she will be addressing with leaders around the world include nature crimes such as:
- Illegal logging.
- Illegal mining.
- Illegal land conversion for farming.
- Wildlife trafficking.
- Crimes associated with fishing.
“These have deep and detrimental and lasting impacts on biodiversity, and on the availability of resources like clean and safe water,” she says. “We are committed as we can be to try to address all of these crises at the same time.”
Making clean and safe water available to all people is among Medina’s top priorities. State Department metrics suggest two-thirds of the world’s population will experience water scarcity by 2025.
Those people will not be able to meet their basic living needs. This is largely because of extreme weather — drought and flooding — created around the world by the climate crisis.
Medina explains that water scarcity and poor water quality harm people’s health and livelihoods. Water scarcity can increase disease, limit agriculture and stymie economic growth. Part of her job will be to help implement the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security (PDF, 400KB).
“We see water scarcity as a growing threat to peace and security in so many parts of the world, so we made it a priority,” Medina said. “The State Department is working with partners and allies around the world to build water cooperation and to engage on issues of water management.”
In her role as the U.S. special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, Medina is attending the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) and the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity over the next month. There, she’ll work to develop climate solutions in partnership with other countries.
“We are working to advance our climate ambition, to strengthen resilience to climate change and to really get as strong an outcome as possible from COP27,” she says. “We, as the U.S., are bringing an awful lot to the table there.”